It looked like we were on the right side the whole way Wednesday night in New York. The Lakers and Knicks were neck-and-neck with Los Angeles getting 3.5 points. It was set to end Knicks by three before LA tied the game just before the end of regulation. The Knicks hit two free throws with a second to go to push their margin of victory to four and cover.
You better believe I’m keeping a mental record of those. Someone owes us one! We’re back in line for the Jazz and Celtics tonight from the capital of Massachusetts.
When Rudy Gobert went down with an injury in mid-November the Jazz, who was already struggling, was supposed to really slide in the Western Conference. Except, that didn’t happen. Utah started slowly but ended up winning six out of the ten games Gobert missed, including the last five. Derrick Favors played center and Quinn Synder spaced the floor around him with four perimeter players (it wouldn’t be right to label them “shooters.”) That opened up the paint and provided lanes for Donovan Mitchell to attack off the dribble and start to do what he’s been doing for a month now.
Gobert returned last Monday and helped his team to a win at home against a Washington team without John Wall. But since then, Utah hasn’t won and the offense has yet to score more than 101. Gobert is rebounding and defending but he’s also clogging up the lane when he’s paired with Favors in the front court. It’s difficult enough to penetrate the lane against the NBA’s best team defense in the Boston Celtics; I suspect Utah will have a lot of trouble scoring the ball tonight.
I’m hoping to see a lot of Marcus Smart on Mitchell in this one. Both guys are of the same size and build and are known for their motors. Mitchell is offensive-minded, while Smart’s strengths are fixated on the other end of the floor. It will be a great one-on-one matchup when those two tangle.
This would have been Gordon Hayward‘s first game against his former team. He is out of his walking boot and plans to attend the game. It’s just another reminder of how well Brad Stevens has made due with what’s available to him. His handle on Jayson Tatum — who is still shooting over 50 percent from the three-point arc — has Boston in as good of a position as if Hayward were healthy.
Al Horford got some rest on Wednesday so he should be at his best in this game. Boston can match Utah’s big lineup with he and Aron Baynes together. The Celtics also have a little more flexibility to go small but defend big. Jaylen Brown and Tatum give them an advantage as taller, longer defenders who can still handle the ball on the perimeter and in transition. The Celtics are the better team in all respects and should win this game by eight to ten, at least.
Free Pick: Boston -5.5